Notes: Arraez 'like new' off IL; Kirilloff, Buxton

May 12th, 2021

The Twins activated from the seven-day injured list before Tuesday's series opener against the White Sox following his recovery from a concussion sustained during an awkward slide into home plate last Monday. He hit leadoff and started in left field at Chicago, contributing right away with a second-inning sacrifice fly off right-hander Dylan Cease.

He showed off his right arm soon after that, throwing out Andrew Vaughn at the plate to end Chicago’s second inning for his second outfield assist of the season. He added a single in the fifth, before the White Sox pulled away, 9-3.

Arraez said he was feeling headaches and dizziness when he was first placed on the IL, but he reported feeling "like new" on Sunday and won't be limited in his return to the field.

"We'll see how he responds today to game action and being out there on his feet all day long," manager Rocco Baldelli said pregame. "I'm assuming he'll take to it well. I don't think he would have the clearance to go out there and play if there was any concern at all."

In a corresponding move, the club optioned utility infielder Nick Gordon to Triple-A St. Paul.

The Twins were 1-4 in Arraez's absence and should immediately benefit from having his .291/.398/.372 line (entering Tuesday) back atop their lineup, particularly against right-handed pitching. He'll likely serve as the primary left-field option, with occasional stints at second base to back up Jorge Polanco.

No updates on Kirilloff, Buxton
Baldelli previously said the Twins were waiting for No. 2 prospect Alex Kirilloff to swing the bat a bit before they made a firm determination as to whether he would require surgery on his sprained right wrist -- but due to the Twins' rainout on Sunday and subsequent Monday off-day, that hasn't yet happened.

Depending on the advice of the Twins' training staff and the continued alleviation of the soreness and inflammation in the area, Kirilloff is expected to take those swings in the next two days.

"Now that we’re back at the field, I think he’s getting treated again in the training room as he will be, and they’re going to decide when he’s going to swing the bat," Baldelli said. "Again, it’s not something that’s really going to really push his timetable in any meaningful direction."

Kirilloff was one of the Twins' hotter hitters before his injury, leading the club in average exit velocity and hard-hit rate (in small sample sizes) with four homers and three doubles in 12 games. He's dealt with issues to the right wrist before, as a sprain sent him to the IL twice as a Minor Leaguer in 2019.

Byron Buxton, on the shelf with a grade 2 hip strain, is tracking further behind, and he remains focused on rest and treatment in the training room, Baldelli said.

Baldelli on schedule: 'A great opportunity for us'
It took more than a month for the Twins and White Sox to finally meet on the field for the first time in 2021, but the circumstances surrounding the matchup certainly aren't what most expected entering the season, with the Twins in fourth place and seven games behind the division-leading White Sox.

The Twins dug themselves into a 12-20 hole -- one game worse than their 13-19 start in 2006, their worst record 32 games into a season during the Wild Card era and still reaching the playoffs. The Twins recovered a bit from that '06 start by finishing May at 24-28, and this team can similarly put itself back on the right track.

"We know we haven’t been playing like we want to be playing," Andrelton Simmons said. "But all we can do is learn from our mistakes and keep doing what we’re doing well. And whatever we haven’t been doing, if it’s making a play or locking in an at-bat or making a pitch, we’ve got to do a better job of it starting right now."

It'll be difficult, considering their upcoming schedule involves series against the White Sox, Oakland, White Sox again and Cleveland. On the one hand, it'll be a tougher stretch to navigate -- but on the other hand, a strong rebound performance could also really push the Twins up the standings with that many head-to-head matchups coming against Chicago.

"I think it’s a great opportunity for us to step in and assert ourselves and go out there and play good baseball and a play a bunch of games in a short period of time," Baldelli said. "We have an opportunity to go out there and win a bunch of games and put ourselves in a good spot."

Simmons remembers time with Pujols
Albert Pujols was designated for assignment by the Angels on Thursday, ending a 10-year tenure in Anaheim. Twins shortstop Simmons played alongside Pujols for five of those seasons, from 2016-20, and spoke highly of how the future Hall of Famer impacted his knowledge of the game.

"If you ask around, everybody that’s seen him play knows what he’s done, how amazing his accolades are, what kind of player he is," Simmons said. "If you’ve been around him, you know he’s a good person. I learned quite a bit while I was there. Tried to pick his brain. It made me a better player just from being next to him. I hope everything works out the way he wants. I hope things work out for him."